One Hundred Years of Diplomatic Ties Between Shakespeare and Cervantes

The British Spanish Society Celebrated its Centenary. An Unusual History of Cultural Diplomacy between Spain and the United Kingdom

June 17th, 2016

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the deaths of both Shakespeare and Cervantes. To mark the occasion, the centenary of the British Spanish Society was also commemorated. The society has always worked to strengthen cultural ties between Spain and England, offering an opportunity for both countries to jointly celebrate the power of their cultures. This institution has always strived for cultural diplomatic relations between the two countries, in order to eliminate the negative stereotypes that dominated their relations up until the nineteenth century.

The company was founded in 1916 as an experiment in "unofficial diplomacy". The journalist and writer, Jimmy Burns Marañón, grandson of Dr. Gregorio Maranon and current president of the British Spanish Society, said the organisation "comes at a crucial historical moment, in the midst of nothing less than a world war.”

"The Foreign Office had concerns about the Spanish neutrality, since it had detected a tendency in certain sectors in Spain to support Germany. That would have important implications for Latin America, where Britain had interests, especially in the mining and banking sectors. It was an attempt to strengthen diplomatic ties through culture", Burns added.

The transformative spirit of the democratic transition reached the British Spanish Society, who in turn undertook the demanding path to make the transition to a non-profit organisation.

Today the company focuses on education and the promotion of culture. It also has a cultural publication, The Journal, and performs various events throughout the year. Exhibitions, seminars, book presentations. The annual gala dinner, in commemoration of the centenary, was held on April 20th and was attended by Queen Sofia and the Duke of York.

"There are factors that create a logical uncertainty, and that included from Gibraltar to the EU referendum in Britain," Burns acknowledges. "But despite all that I, who have lived relations for 60 years, I think we could not be better. Live in London, a multicultural society in which the Spanish form a long-accepted community. Then there are the British people that living in Spain, who visit their favorite sites in Europe, which are in Spain, and who love the Spanish culture. Now, on the 400th anniversary of the death of Cervantes and Shakespeare, it is a good time to remember that unite us more things that divide us."


Cultural Diplomacy News
Carlota Auzmendi, CD News